Deamonte Driver unveils first mobile clinic

May 5, 2010
Ribbon-cutting ceremony slated for May 6, 2010, on Capitol Hill to mark clinic launch.

The Deamonte Driver Dental Project has announced arrival and launch of its first mobile dental clinic.

A private ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held May 6, 2010, on Capitol Hill followed by an awards ceremony honoring those whose support and leadership brought the dream to fruition.

Included among the honorees are Maryland legislators Governor Martin O'Malley, Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and State Senator Ulysses Currie. Others to be honored are Stanley M. Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, and Jim Kitch, vice president of ADI Mobile Health, as well as other community partners, advocates, and dentists who have cooperated to build a sustainable program.

The events will take place in conjunction with the annual National Dental Association Day on the Hill.

Dr. Walter Owens, president of the National Dental Association, stated, "It is with great joy, pride, and appreciation that the National Dental Association and Robert T. Freeman Dental Society, thank Governor Martin O'Malley, Maryland legislators, the citizens of Maryland and all our loyal partners as we celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication of the Deamonte Driver Project Mobile Dental Clinic. This project honors the memory of Deamonte Driver and symbolizes the commitment of the National Dental Association to do all within our power to provide needed dental services to underserved populations and to raise public awareness to the need for quality, comprehensive dental care for all the citizens of our great country."

Added Governor O'Malley: "While there is nothing we can ever do to compensate for the loss of Deamonte, we can honor his memory by doing everything in our power to make sure his death was not in vain--by doing all that we can to ensure no child ever dies for want of care from a toothache.

Together, we have been able to increase incentives to dentists who provide Medicaid services, break through bureaucratic roadblocks that prevent dental hygienists from providing a full array of services at public health clinics, and expand access to these vital dental benefits to more Maryland children than ever before. The Deamonte Driver Project's Mobile Clinic will help us in our mission to ensure that more Maryland children receive the dental care they deserve."

Co-founded by Dr. Hazel Harper and Dr. Belinda Carver-Taylor, the Deamonte Driver Dental Project is part of a school-based community initiative to increase access to care for uninsured and underinsured children in Prince George’s County, Md., and surrounding communities.

It is funded by the State of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in response to recommendations to improve the oral health infrastructure in the state. The project is one of Maryland’s innovations in health and is evolving as a model for the nation.

“I applaud the efforts of the Deamonte Driver Dental Project to make sure that no other child in our nation dies from tooth decay," said Senator Cardin, who authored the provision requiring dental benefits be included in the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance program.

"Deamonte Driver's tragic death is a reminder that oral health is part of overall health care and all American children must have access to dental care."

The 39-foot mobile dental clinic was designed and manufactured by ADI Mobile Health. It is equipped with technology and equipment donated by Henry Schein, a leading dental dealer.

The mobile clinic features three dental operatories, digital X-ray systems, internal and external flat-screen monitors, and a software management program for data collection and case management. The project has also received donations from the Prince George's County Foundation, Oral Health America (Trident Fund), American Dental Association Foundation, Give Kids A Smile Fund, Sunstar Americas, DentaQuest Foundation, and the Prince George's County Chapter of Jack and Jill.

State Senator Currie has often expressed how "proud [he is] that the state of Maryland has continued the work we began in 2008 to fund the purchase of the mobile dental van and provide the other resources necessary to improve our community's oral health. We were all moved by the death of Deamonte Driver and we committed then to see that all children in Prince George's County would have access to affordable dental care. Without the tireless partnership of the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society and the many dentists, hygienists, assistants and so many other volunteers, this would not have been possible. My sincerest and heartfelt thanks for your selfless service."

Named in memory of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year old boy who died from a case of untreated tooth decay that resulted in a fatal brain infection, the project is administered by the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society Foundation, under the auspices of the National Dental Association.

The project was launched in November 2008 by Governor O'Malley to address urgent oral health issues and to increase awareness about the link between oral health and overall health. It is a hub-and-spoke model in which the schools are the hub and other community partners are the spokes.

Last year, 43 community dentists, mostly members of the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society, donated 255 hours of service on a rented mobile dental unit. Information obtained from the 1,635 students at the nine target schools revealed that nearly 20% of the students required urgent care. They were referred to local dentists for immediate treatment.

"Oral hygiene has been a critical cause to me since the death of Deamonte Driver," said Congressman Cummings. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that dental decay is the single most common chronic disease in children—and it is preventable. I am proud that passing comprehensive health-care reform took the first steps toward ensuring that all the Deamontes out there are freed from their senseless pain and suffering. This mobile clinic will follow through on a street-by-street level, serving Marylanders who otherwise might not be able to take advantage of the wonderful care offered by dental professionals in our nation. I commend the Deamonte Driver Dental Project for their efforts to serve their fellow Americans."

Goals for the second year are to expand the scope of the project, increase the number of adopted schools to 15, use the new mobile clinic to implement school-based emergency, restorative, and preventive services for the children, and to increase venues for community health education by increasing participation in community health fairs at schools, churches, and community centers.

Henry Schein's Bergman said: "It is wonderful to hear that the Deamonte Driver Dental Project and the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society Foundation will be opening the first Deamonte Driver Mobile Dental Clinic. This mobile clinic will have an important impact on the children and families of Prince George's County, and will provide a sustainable model of oral health-care access for other counties around the country. Henry Schein Cares shares your deep commitment to increasing access to quality health care for underserved communities, promoting early intervention, and oral health disease prevention. It is our privilege to partner with you in support of the work of the National Dental Association, the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society Foundation, and the Deamonte Driver Dental Project."

Dr. Hazel Harper, project director, said, "There is no greater good that we can do than seek to provide care and protection for our children. With the memory of Deamonte always in my mind, I will continue to do all I can to build a model program that can be replicated across America."

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